These days, it seems there is nothing harder than tuning out exterior distractions. There are so many competing for our attention–texts, news alerts, social media notifications…not to mention all the more usual suspects, such as other people and animals, sounds and movements, and our own thoughts and worries.
When working with our horses, however, it is of the utmost importance to find ways to quiet the noise on both the inside and outside and truly focus. Horse trainer Vivian Gabor discovered just how important this skill is when she worked with a wild horse from Oregon for 90 days in preparation for the Mustang Makeover in Germany. In her book MUSTANG: FROM WILD HORSE TO RIDING HORSE, she explains why:
“In the interests of successful communication, when you ask a horse to focus fully on your signals, you need to do the same,” Gabor writes. “Horses often feel insecure if you are distracted. Completely tuning out external stimuli doesn’t mean that you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on around you. Quite the opposite, because that’s the only way you can keep the horse safe. You need to be aware of external stimuli, but communicate to the horse that it is not dangerous and doesn’t require your attention. If the horse himself is focused on external stimuli, you should be able to show him that the most important thing for his safety is to pay attention to you.
“Completely tuning out external stimuli doesn’t mean that you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on around you. Quite the opposite.”
“This is how you achieve communication that is built on attentiveness, but also communicates to the horse that you will protect him from external influences or rather, that you will decide whether or not something is dangerous.
“This doesn’t mean working with the horse in a bubble, but creating a safe environment for him where he sees you as a competent leader.”
For more insight on what it’s like to train a Mustang and how those lessons can be applied to our work with any horse, check out MUSTANG: FROM WILD HORSE TO RIDING HORSE by Vivian Gabor, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is free.
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Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on farm in rural Vermont.